Human rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch

Human rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch
© Greg Nash

Human rights leaders warned the Senate Judiciary Committee against advancing Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

In the fourth and final day of Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, said it would be a mistake for the committee to confirm him before ensuring he will defend individual rights, as well as the authority of Congress and the judiciary.

Jaffer echoed the concerns of Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinJeh Johnson: Media focused on 'Access Hollywood' tape instead of Russian meddling ahead of election What’s genius for Obama is scandal when it comes to Trump Coalition presses Transportation Dept. for stricter oversight of driverless cars MORE (D-Calif.), who grilled Gorsuch over the past two days about emails he sent while working in the Bush administration Justice Department in which he appeared to advocate for and encourage the continued use of torture practices in helping the president craft a signing statement to go with the Detainee Treatment Act, an anti-torture Congress passed.  

“It appears worth noting that Judge Gorsuch appeared not to have registered disagreement with any of the policies that he defended though other officials did, nor is there evidence that he registered discomfort with any of the broad arguments the Justice Department advanced in support of those policies though again others did,” Jaffer said.

“The documents provided by the Justice Department suggest that Judge Gorsuch was comfortable with the policies and with the Bush administration’s defense of them. It was challenges to the policies that troubled him.”

Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of Human Rights First, also raised concerns about Gorsuch’s views on torture. She said now is not the time to put a justice on the bench who is unwilling to stand up to a presidential power grab.

“The stakes are too high to get this wrong,” she said.

The committee also heard from witnesses advocating for Gorsuch to be confirmed. 

His former colleague, retired Judge Deanell Reece Tacha, said Gorsuch brings to bench a powerful intellect and a probing analytical approach to every issue. 

“He is, for me, the gold standard in public service,” she said.

Members of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary also testified. The committee gave Gorsuch its highest rating of “well-qualified” after an evaluation in which it contacted 5,000 people nationwide for information about the nominee's record, competence and integrity.  

Feinstein asked ABA member Nancy Scott Degan if the committee had reviewed the emails Gorsuch sent while at the Justice Department that indicate his personal thinking on subjects such as torture.

Degan said the committee had not reviewed those documents but would be happy to. She said she doubts, however, that they will change ABA’s rating of Gorsuch.